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Space Harrier
Space Harrier (Arcade)

Space Harrier is one of the most famous games in the world. It was a true showcase title as to why SEGA are the premier arcade developer.

Back in the day, the game was a revolutionary jump in terms of graphics by literally bringing a new perspective. Previously it had been only 2D.

It's fast action gameplay, smooth psychedelic graphics backed by a trance tune that made the game an instant success and ultimately went on to have a huge impact on the arcade scene. Now some 17 years later new versions are being released for modern platforms.

The source for this article is based upon the Saturn port contained within the SEGA Ages Vol 1 which also contains After Burner and Out Run. It was released in Europe in 1997.

Get Ready!

SEGA AGES Volume 1 European Case
SEGA AGES Volume 1 European Case

"Warp back in time and re-live three of the most celebrated arcade stonkers ever! From the winding race tracks of Outrun to the deadly skies of Space Harrier and After Burner II, these authentic arcade conversions are guaranteed to break you out in a sweat and bring memories flooding back!"

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SEGA's System16 Arcade Board

SEGA's System16 Arcade Board

Space Harrier was created by Yu Suzuki in 1985 of team AM2 and ran on the System16 arcade board which at the time was one of the most powerful arcade boards in the world.

The specification of the board included dual Motorola 68000's and a SEGA custom designed Video Display Processor (VDP) for sprites games as well as various sound processors for the FM synthesised music and effects. In comparison, the Mega Drive/Genesis used only one 68000 which ran much slower. The term for these systems was "Super-Scalar Technology". Space Harrier was the first game to employ the technique.

By using several versions of the same sprite to represent it at different distances from the viewpoint of the player, when displayed in order, a sense of forward motion could be achieved, and in the case of Space Harrier, continuous and forward.

Super-Scalar was less elegant than future techniques - some utilised dedicated sprite processors - yet it created the desired effect.

A series of games were based upon this technology. Others included Out Run, Afterburner and Buggy Heat. The same system board was also used for games like Enduro Racer.

Simple ports of the game began to appear. One of the first conversions out of the arcades appeared on SEGA's 8-Bit Master System. The undertaking was quite ambitious on SEGA's part due to the fact the Master System had no where near the power of the arcade machine. Whilst the conversion could not capture the smoothness and the speed of the arcade machine, it did still manage recreate the gameplay and challenge with extra gameplay modes unlocked via cheats.

Planet Harriers

It even had a spin off 3D title that utilised the novel 3D glasses used by a handful of games on the system to create the "jumping out of the TV feel".

Other simpler ports appeared for a huge range of home computers and consoles making Space Harrier probably one of the most ported games of the era which also included the NES.

It was not till the advent of more powerful consoles like the Mega Drive 32X and Saturn that a perfect port of the arcade could be achieved.

Many years later, the Space Harrier concept was revisited and perhaps a little known game entitled Planet Harriers was released in the arcade on SEGA's powerful Hikaru arcade board.

In December 2012, 3D Space Harrier was released for the Nintendo 3DS on their E-Shop. Basically it is a port of the arcade original and uses the touch control of the system. It comes with a sound equalizer and an option to move the arcade cabinet using the 3DS' gyro-sensor.


After years of attack from the demon Absymbel the protective shielding around Dragonland has been breached. Dragonland's defences were no match for the invading army and now the land is under Absymbel's reign.

Your character is Harri - he is the last of the sentinels that defend Dragonland. Whilst evading the advancing forces he sees that their firepower has destroyed most of the surrounding terrain. Whilst contemplating the destruction he observes something metallic and shining that has been unearthed in all the chaos.

Curiosity makes him investigate - a Jetpack! But this was unlike anything he had ever seen. He knew the mythology of knights who once defended Dragonland who carried such powerful yet ancient machines. Jet packs also allowed these warriors of the past to run and fly and terrific speeds. These also apparently had some sort of weapon - a huge laser mounted in the front.

A big bright button on the side of the Jet Pack obviously had some sort of important function. Harri pushed it. Whoa! He felt himself lift off the ground. At first the experience was frightening but the simple use of this machine made the sensation soon turn to exhilaration.

He soon realised however, that he was not the only one flying. In the distance a formation of aircraft appear in the horizon. Their speed suggests that they are not friendly sentinel craft but Absylian. They change course and approach him. A new battle is about to begin.

As Harri, you will engage the enemy forces in each of the provinces of Dragonland starting with Moot. Absymbel will send stronger and stronger forces to destroy you. Can you make it to the capital and retake Dragonland from the demon Absymbel?


Space Harrier is an incredibly simplistic to play and therefore makes the game rather addictive. Harri runs or flies across a chequered floor with the aid of his jet pack and fights with his laser cannon under his arm on a 'face-on' pseudo 3D perspective landscape. Enemies and objects appear in the distance and get larger until they pass you. Most stages will be floor and sky, however, some will have a chequered ceiling giving an underground feel.

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Video is shamelessly embedded from Youtube. All credit to the video owner. No infringement intended.

The mode for progress in the game is dodge and shoot; dodge the weapons fire from incoming enemies, the various pylons and pillars which litter the landscape, the larger rocks on the floor and shoot down as many enemies as you can. The placement of the enemies is always the same but the ground objects will be placed randomly removing some safety.

The pace in which a stage will progress and enemies come at you is also variable. For the most part you will stay at one speed, however, in a few sections and entire stages, your speed will be double. On these stages sometimes the best strategy is simply to avoid.

Space Harrier


The D-Pad moves Harri around the full area of the screen. When touching the floor he is on his feet and runs. Above the floor the low gravity allows him to remain in the air and fly. In either state your speed will be the same.

Buttons A, B and C on the control pad are fire. Holding any button gives rapid fire but this is very slow. The best approach is to continuously press a single button for rapid fire. Your fire will also home on a target to a certain degree. A shot within a small area should find the target, however, do not rely on this.

Buttons X,Y,Z, L TRIGGER and R TRIGGER have no function. The NiGHTS 3D/Analog controller is compatible with this game and the others on the disc. When in analoge mode, Harri returns to the centre of the screen when the stick is released like in the coin-op.

On screen you will have your points, Hi-Points, the stage number you are on and how many lives you have left represented by small Harri figures.

Space Harrier
Stage 8: Ida Stage 1: Moot

Your score begins counting up as soon as you start and continues until Game Over. More points are earned as you destroy enemies and objects. More points can be earned in the Bonus Stages. Points earn extra lives- though not many throughout the course of a usual game.

Most of the enemies that approach you can be destroyed with a single shot. Some, however, some need to be hit at certain times whilst very few are indestructible. You will know this as your fire will bounce off with a "ching" sound like with pylons etc. Each enemy that appears is accompanied by a signature sound and each type of projectile launched at you will have a signature sound. This is handy when there is too much on the screen to see what is going on! There will also be a sound when an enemy fires at you.

You can die by being hit by an enemy, this be by a projectile or collision, or by running into a stationary object such as a pylon or creature on the floor. Most floor bound creatures along with small rocks can be destroyed unlike pylons. Harri will trip over some of the smaller objects that are on the floor. Whilst this does not harm you is does make him unresponsive for a second or two which is a long time in Space Harrier.

In a standard game you will begin with 3 lives. When all those lives are lost you will return to the title screen via the high score's board if you are eligible. Upon Game Over you maybe able to continue from a stage. See about the Bonus Stage below.

A stage falls somewhere between 1 and 2 minutes of gameplay. You will battle waves of creatures before encountering a boss creature at the end. Boss creatures will require multiple hits before they are destroyed. As you damage them they will change colour. The weak spot is the head. When the creature is red it is close to destruction.

A Bonus Stage is the opportunity to collect points which in turn gain extra lives. When you reach a Bonus Stage you will fly on the Uriahan Wind Worm. When riding this creature use the D-Pad LEFT and RIGHT to direct it to destroy objects mostly on the floor. The more objects you destroy the more points you collect.

You can continue if you have reached a Bonus Stage before loosing your last life. You can continue from the stage directly following the Bonus Stage. This translates into being able to continue from Stages 6 and 13 if you have already passed them in a game. This is only relevant to the game you are playing now. It is not saved when you exit. The option for this will appear on the title screen.

The game comprises of 18 stages in total; 16 stages of combat and 2 bonus rounds. The game ends upon completion of Stage 18 - Absymbel, which is a collection of most of the bosses in a different order to how they appeared in the game.

Saturn Specifics / Options

The Saturn version sports a few tweaks over the original arcade machine which are all conveniently placed on an Options screen accessed via the title screen. The available options are:

Level - You can select the difficulty of the game. In harder settings, enemy projectiles are much faster.

Player - The amount of lives you start the game with

Trial Time - Select either On or Off. With Trial Time on, for the first 60 seconds of the game you will not loose any lives even if Harri is killed.

Bonus Player - Set the amount of points that are needed before you receive an extra life. 5 or 7 million.

Music Test - Select tunes from the game. Press A,B or C to play.

Up/Down - Toggles normal or reverse mode for Up and Down on the D-Pad.

Ranking - Press A or C to view the top 99 scores for the game. Press B to return to the options screen.

Sound Mode - Switch between Stereo and Mono sound.

You can return to the title screen at anytime during play by pressing A,B,C and START together. Pressing it again will return you to the SEGA Ages select screen.


One of Space Harrier's trademarks was the bizarre names for each stage or provinces of the game. You can see some more screenshots below.

Space Harrier Screenshots (Arcade Version)
Moot Moot
Geeza Geeza
Amar Amar
Cieceil Cieceil
Bonus Stage 1 Bonus Stage 1
Olisis Olisis
Lucasia Lucasia
Revi Revi
Minia Minia
Parms Parms
Bonus Stage 2 Bonus Stage 2
Drail Drail
Asute Asute
Vicel Vicel
Natura Natura
Nark Nark
Natura Natura
Absymbel Absymbel

On Stage 18 you will fight the following bosses; Godarni, Barbarian, Squilla, Ida, Salpedon, Syura and Valda.


Space Harrier Sounds (MP3)
Space Harrier Main Theme

Space Harrier Theme [MP3 160Kbit]

Welcome to the Fantasy Zone

Welcome to the Fantasy Zone [MP3 160Kbit]

Welcome to the Fantasy Zone

Get Ready! [MP3 160Kbit]


Arcade Mode

To make the game revert to arcade mode wait for the title screen, then press A+C+START on Controller Two.

Diagnostics Screen

You can access the arcade diagnostics screens by holding X+Y+Z and START on controller one. This simulates the DIP switches of the original arcade board.

There you can change difficulty etc. Only works when the game has been switched to arcade mode.

Diagnostics Screen

Dianostic Screen

Other Versions, Updates and Sequels

Original Arcade Version

There are 3 types of arcade cabinet for Space Harrier. There is the traditional upright standing console, the fixed sit down and the full motion cockpit. The control panels on each machine have backlit instrument gauges. The same branding appears on each of the units they being a dragon, the harrier character and the racing stripes.

Space Harrier Arcade Flyer

Arcade Poster

There are 3 types of arcade cabinet for this game. There is the traditional upright standing console, the fixed sit down and the full motion cockpit. The control panels on each machine have backlit instrument gauges. The same branding appears on each of the units they being a dragon, the harrier character and the racing stripes.

Stand-Up Type Space Harrier Cabinet Cockpit Type Space Harrier Cabinet

Stand Up Type Cabinet

Cock Pit Type Cabinet

It can be successfully emulated with current versions of MAME.

For older systems, the game is emulated perfectly using the System16 Emulator Version 0.82. Below version 0.80 lacks emulation for the sound chip and as such most ROM sets will not contain the sound ROM's but they can be obtained.

Version 0.79 and 0.80 of the DirectX version emulate the game with no problems.

System 16 Emulator

System16 Emulator

Other Versions

Typing Space Harrier

An offshoot of the game was Typing Space Harrier in which the gamer had to type combination of keys within a time window for Harri to avoid the enemies. It's akin to playing the game at 100 times slower but it's intention was to teach people how to use a keyboard.

Typing Space Harrier

Typing Space Harrier

It was a quirky title to say the least and only released in Japan for the PC. The concept was attempted again with The Typing of The Dead.


Space Harrier is probably one of the most converted and ported titles of the era having appeared on a dozens of consoles and computers including the NES (yes you read that correctly), Commodore Amiga and ZX Spectrum. Some examples are below.

Space Harrier - Various Versions
Space Harrier (NES) Space Harrier (ZX Spectrum) Space Harrier (PC Engine)


ZX Spectrum

PC Engine

Original Game Appearances

The latest appearances of Space Harrier (running under some form of emulator) have been on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console service and as an unlockable extra in SEGA Classics Collection for Xbox 360 and PS3.

It can also be seen in a collection called Yu Suzuki's Game Works for the Dreamcast in 2001. The game is also incorporated into Shenmue as a bonus feature.

Console Versions

Space Harrier - Master System

The first console port of the original arcade game. It is faithful to most of the graphics and music albeit much more basic. It is quite playable considering the power of the machine compared against the arcade board. It contained and extra final boss and the ability to play as a jet fighter.

Space Harrier (Master System)
Space Harrier (Master System) Space Harrier (Master System)

Space Harrier 3D - Master System

A separate spin-off version exclusive to the Master System. This one was designed to work with the novel 3D glasses for that leaping out the TV feel. It could be played in a standard mode also.

Space Harrier 3D (Master System)
Space Harrier 3D (Master System)
Space Harrier 3D (Master System) Space Harrier 3D (Master System)

Space Harrier - Game Gear

This was released much later than the Master System version and has several additions. There are new graphics for enemy sprites that are more detailed compared to the Master System version and some are similar to the arcade original and the game runs much more smoothly. Stage names are different and it also employs a password system for replaying them.

Space Harrier - Game Gear
Space Harrier - Game Gear Space Harrier - Game Gear Space Harrier - Game Gear

Space Harrier - Mega Drive 32X

An almost arcade perfect port for the Mega Drive 32X. This was released along side After Burner. Can also be played in any 32X emulators. See [Mega Drive 32X Area] for more information.

Space Harrier - Mega Drive 32X Space Harrier (32X)

Space Harrier - Gameboy Advance

Space Harrier appears as part of the SEGA Arcade Gallery. The package also contains Afterburner, Outrun and Super Hang On. Since the GBA hardware is no where near powerful enough for emulation of these games so they were basic conversions.

It is faithful to the original arcade, however, its very sluggish in comparison and the sound is pretty dire.

SEGA Arcade Gallery (Gameboy Advance)

SEGA Arcade Gallery (Gameboy Advance)

SEGA Arcade Gallery (Gameboy Advance)
Space Harrier (SEGA Arcade Hallery) (Gameboy Advance) Space Harrier (SEGA Arcade Hallery) (Gameboy Advance) Space Harrier (SEGA Arcade Hallery) (Gameboy Advance)


Technically Space Harrier only has one sequel...

Space Harrier II - Mega Drive/Genesis

Space Harrier II (Mega Drive)

A sequel which was produced as a launch title for the Mega Drive in 1989.

The story is Harri responds to a distress call from fantasy land and departs to do battle against further waves of enemies.

Gameplay is identical and there are mostly new enemies, yet with only 13 stages and significantly reduced difficulty (even set on hard) the game is inferior to the original.

They main theme for Harri is a little lacklustre also.

Space Harrier II ThemeSpace Harrier II Theme

It still has the quirky names for the stages.

Space Harrier II (Mega Drive)
Space Harrier II (Mega Drive/Genesis) Space Harrier II (Mega Drive/Genesis)

There is a very rare arcade cabinet of the game based on the Mega-Tech arcade board which is a derivative of the Mega Drive/Genesis hardware.

Space Harrier II is available on several of SEGA's compilation titles and in the Apple iTunes App Store.

There was also a Tiger LCD game.

Planet Harriers - Arcade

Planet Harriers is a spiritual sequel of Space Harrier that revamps the gameplay and graphics. It was released in 2000 on the Hikaru Arcade board which is an upgraded version of Naomi/Dreamcast system. The gameplay is very similar to the original and there are more characters to choose from.

As the name suggests you fly across beautifully detailed landscapes as well as sections of open air at speed destroying hordes of oncoming enemies until reaching a final boss creature.

Planet Harriers
alt : Use Old Embed Code from YouTube
Planet Harriers Arcade Flyer

Planet Harriers Arcade Flyer

A Dreamcast version was hoped for and possibly even began. Such projects were obviously canned with the result of the company's multi-platform ambitions. It was rumoured however, that a version was planned for the Nintendo Game Cube.

Perhaps an Xbox Live Arcade version with online co-op would be an excellent idea for a conversion...

For more information about Planet Harriers check out For those of you who are mega rich you may want to buy an arcade cabinet.

Space Harrier SEGA Ages 2500 Volume 4 (PS2)

An updated port of the original Space Harrier was released in 2003 for the PS2 under the SEGA Ages 2500 Series.

Space Harrier SEGA Ages 2500 Volume 4 (PS2)

Space Harrier SEGA Ages 2500 Volume 4 (PS2)

The graphics are overhauled with polygons and textured landscapes which can be turned off for the chequered floor. Music is remixed and a few tweaks to the gameplay such as a giant bomb, lock-on lasers and shields are now made. There are also a few additional stages.

It is an easier game in comparison to the original. There are a few issues that make it a slightly less enjoyable game too.

As with all of the SEGA Ages releases, it was released in Japan only. It was however included in the European SEGA Classics Collection for PS2 which consists of 10 SEGA AGES titles.

Space Harrier SEGA Ages 2500 Volume 4 (PS2) Screenshots
Space Harrier (PS2)
Space Harrier (PS2)
Space Harrier (PS2)
Space Harrier (PS2)

You can find a review of the game here at


Space Harrier Arcade version can be played with MAME or the System 16 Emulator.

Space Harrier for Master System can be played with DEGA or KEGA Fusion.

Space Harrier for the Game Gear can be played with DEGA or KEGA Fusion.

Space Harrier for the Game Boy Advance can be played with the Visual Boy Advance Emulator.



Space Harrier at Hardcore Gaming 101

Another excellent page describing all the different versions of the game.

Space Harrier on Tumblr

Lots of Space Harrier related imagery at Tumblr.

Space Harrier Theme Live

Videos of a live performance of the iconic theme.


An enormous archive website devoted to arcade machines. There is a wealth of information relating to the System 16 arcade cabinet in which Space Harrier runs and the Hikaru arcade board on which Planet Harriers runs. Well recommended.

You can also download a copy of the System16 emulator from there.


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